Construction Site Dangers
I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.
Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.
Today’s question comes from a person who would like to know if a general contractor can be held responsible for a construction worksite injury that her husband suffered while performing a task for a subcontractor.
Construction sites often are home to many work-related injuries.
The reason construction sites are dangerous is because there are a lot of people doing a lot of different activities all at the same time.
For example, on one work site you may have crane operators and carpenters present. You may have steelworkers on-site, as well as concrete workers, electricians, or other union trade workers.
Not only may there be different kinds of workers at a construction site, but there are also likely many different businesses and companies represented on site. Typically, there is one general contractor and several subcontractors representing different businesses.
In addition to all that, there may be delivery truck drivers coming and going as well. Other kinds of short-term workers who may be present at the construction site include people coming simply to construct and then remove a scaffolding.
Having all of these different workers and businesses coming together to work on a construction project creates a lot of moving parts. And whenever there’s a lot of moving parts, there’s also increased risk for things to go wrong. People often assume that other people are doing things, but assumptions can be mistaken. One assumption you don’t want to be wrong about is that other people are following safety rules. That’s why, in many cases, a general contractor has a blanket provision in all the subcontracts requiring all contractors on site to bear equal responsibility for safety.
Safety is one thing you don’t want falling through the cracks. People can get severely injured or even killed.
For example, in the past, we had a case where electrical equipment on a construction site short-circuited and caused an explosion, injuring a worker.
On a different occasion, a construction site worker was using a gas-powered power saw to cut through chain-link fence. The saw threw sparks, and those sparks ignited a fuel can a few feet away that was placed there by another contractor.
In situations like these, the key legal question is often, “who is at fault?” In the situation just described, is the contractor who left the fuel can in a location where it might easily ignite liable? Is the contractor who generated the sparks through the use of the power-saw liable? Are they both liable?
The answer to the question of liability is often unclear, resulting in an ensuing legal battle.
Can a general contractor be held liable for a subcontractor who fails to provide a safe work environment on site? Or, put another way, can a general contractor, by the wording in a contract, avoid responsibility for overall jobsite safety?
Generally, the answer is no, so long as the terms of the contract provide that the safety duty is non-delegable. However, as I said before, there often is a major legal dispute about whether the general contractor can be held legally responsible in a particular injury event caused by a subcontractor.
It is true that worker’s compensation laws often come into play in construction site injuries because an injured employee can apply for workers compensation benefits through his or her employer, but there can also be additional legal remedies. Indeed, the real legal battle usually is to sort our which contractors on site contributed to the situation that led to the injury, and usually more than one party is at fault.
The construction industry in general is a dangerous line of work, that’s why it is important to ensure that safety protocols are followed all of the time, minimizing the risk of injury.
We urge anyone who has experienced or had a family member experience a construction site injury to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney who has handled claims of this type successfully to help them recover the compensation they are entitled to when an injury of this type occurs.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.